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TN lawmaker introduces bill that would pull funding from schools who teach undocumented immigrant children

The bill was filed on Dec. 7 ahead of the 2022 session. A Tennessee immigration rights organization called it "unconstitutional, heartless and cruel."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee lawmaker who is not seeking reelection in 2022 is facing criticism after introducing a bill that would pull state funding from school systems based on the number of undocumented immigrant children they enroll.

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) introduced House Bill 1648 on December 7 ahead of the next General Assembly.

The bill as written wants to amend Tennessee law to allow K-12 school districts to deny enrollment to children who are not lawfully documented in the U.S. If a district still enrolls those children, the bill said the Tennessee Department of Education would then withhold funding per student -- putting the costs of their education on the school system.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition slammed the bill as "unconstitutional, heartless and cruel." Griffey's bill directly challenges the Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe, which found it was unconstitutional for a state to withhold funding for school districts that educate children of undocumented immigrants.

"We believe that all children should have access to public education and in the 1982 case case Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court agreed," TIRRC Votes said. "Their decision stated 'education provides the basic tools by which individuals might lead economically productive lives to the benefit of us all.'"

The 112th General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in Nashville on January 11, 2022.


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